O. Henry Short Story Analysis
William Sydney Porter, better known as O. Henry, has written hundreds of short stories and other literary works based on encounters that occurred and stories heard while serving his time in jail. While in jail, Porter used a pseudonym to mask his identity, covering his criminal record. He came across many inmates with unique and unheard-of stories, which sparked his inspiration. Because O. Henry was influenced by his experiences in prison and others there, his short stories can be characterized by realistic, captivating, and sudden, using suspense, situational irony, and the base of real events.
In his short story, “A Retrieved Reformation”, O Henry uses suspense to create the tone and mood for the reader.For example, as the protagonist, Jimmy Valentine, gets released from prison due to safe cracking, Jimmy denied that he ever cracked a safe in the first place (Henry, 1).Since the audience does not know much about Mr. Valentine, one cannot be sure that he is lying.This creates uncertainty although the reader may expect him to be lying.In addition, the text mentions that Jimmy had many friends outside of jail (Henry, 1).
This poses the idea that they may be in on the action, and that he really is guilty if he got released by bail so soon. With this, though there is the prediction that he will go back and continue doing the same as he did before. Furthermore, Henry creates unexpected situations in order to fix the reader on the story.Jimmy Valentine, now Ralph D. Spencer, was a professional safecracker but gave it up for a beautiful woman that he met. Her father, the bank owner recently got a new vault, and showed it off to all the family, but Mr.
Spencer’s future niece got trapped inside (Henry, 5-6). Mr. Spencer now faces a choice: reveal his true identity and save the girl, or act dumb and panic like everyone else. O. Henry uses this and what follows to capture the reader. What comes next may be expected by some: Mr.
Spencer saves the little girl by breaking into the vault (Henry, 6). But the twist where detective Ben Price watched him and did not arrest him for his previous crimes, was completely unexpected. O. Henry used this to show the mystery and confusion that would have been in all of the family’s minds. Because of the situational irony in this short story, the audience’s attention and interest is captured, leaving readers wanting more.
By using information through others’ stories and experiences, O. Henry’s work is based upon what really occurred. Because of his time in prison, Porter heard many stories about crime, and his inspiration was born. In his short stories such as “A Double-Dyed Deceiver”, Henry focuses his plot along a crime taking place, or the consequences of a crime. In this specific story, the protagonist has shot a stranger, and is running away from retribution. One of his inmates with whom he made friends could have very well told him a story about such a thing.
O. Henry having a unique outlook on life, was able to turn his knowledge of these circumstances in his imagination to form a fictional account of the event. In another of his works, “After Twenty Years”, a realistic, yet fictional, description of a meeting of two old pals. They have decided to meet back up and catch up with one another after twenty years had passed. In those twenty years, one of the friends had become a thief, while the other became a policeman.
It is likely that Henry heard tale of a like event happening to one of the others with him while locked up. Because this story, as well as many others, includes crime and offenses, it may be assumed that O. Henry heard a similar story during his time in jail. O. Henry’s criminal exposure helped him write over three hundred short stories, many of which inspired by real people.
He used his imagination to make these situations his own, and in this he captures the reader’s interest.William Sydney Porter gained much wisdom from his own actions of fraud and theft from a bank, as well as, the stories of others and their experiences. Works Cited Henry, O. “A Retrieved Reformation”. 1903. CommonLit.
Accessed May 11, 2018. Henry, O. “After Twenty Years”. 1905. CommonLit. Accessed May 14, 2018.
Henry, O. “A Double-Dyed Deceiver”. 1905. American Literature. Accessed May 15, 2016.